Powerful archbishop admits Vatican made ‘mistakes’ with attack on LGBT+ rights bill

·3-min read

A top Italian archbishop has spoken out against the Vatican’s unprecedented decision to interfere on Italy’s proposed anti-homophobia law.

The Vatican sparked widespread outrage after issuing a nota verbale opposing the bill – which would extend anti-discrimination protections to women, LGBT+ people and those with disabilities – on the basis that it would supposedly breach a 92-year old treaty with Italy.

Speaking at the Be pop! cultural review in Rome, archbishop Vincenzo Paglia admitted that the Holy See’s resistance to the bill was a “mistake” and acknowledged that homophobic discrimination is “obvious” to see.

“That the problem exists is obvious; that it must be fought is even more obvious still,” said Paglia, as reported by Crux. The anti-homophobia law “brings to light a very important issue that must be faced,” he added.

The archbishop, who is head of the Pontifical Academy for Life and president of an Italian government commission on care for the elderly, criticised the Vatican’s controversial interference in the law as well as the writing of the law itself, saying “the mistake was on both sides”.

“The law as I’ve read and studied it is poorly done,” he said. “It identifies a problem but doesn’t help to resolve it. It’s more of a manifesto, and as a manifesto, it’s fine, but if you have to translate it into legislative language, it must be precisely written.”

Yet the Vatican never should have involved itself in the matter, as the debate over the bill “is a problem regarding only the Italian republic”.

“It has nothing to do with the concordat,” Paglia said, referring to the 1929 Lateran Pacts, which established the Vatican City State as a sovereign entity and which governs relations between the Holy See and Italy.

“So, to me, that note, in my opinion, should not have been written. Absolutely,” he said.

Italian prime minister shuts down Vatican interference

The scandal is thought to be the first time the Holy See has ever issued a nota verbale to the Italian government to object to pending legislation. The bill in question was named the “Zan bill” after Alessandro Zan, the openly gay Italian politician who introduced it.

The Vatican’s secretary of state, cardinal Pietro Parolin, defended the controversial move, saying it was not about interfering with international politics but about highlighting bigger problems the Zan bill could lead to if it is passed.

“We are against any attitude or gesture of intolerance or hatred towards people because of their sexual orientation, as well as their ethnicity or their beliefs,” Parolin said, insisting that the Church’s only problem with the bill was that it’s “too vague,” and risks “making any possible distinction between man and woman punishable”.

But Italy’s prime minister Mario Draghi promptly shut down the Vatican’s efforts, reminding the Holy See that “ours is a secular state, not a religious state,” and parliament “is free” and capable of making its own decisions without outside interference, according to Reuters.

Roberto Fico, speaker of the lower house, also pushed back against Vatican meddling, telling state broadcaster RAI: “Parliament is sovereign and won’t accept interference.”

The bill remains under consideration in the Italian parliament.

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